The Glory of God Guards Against Apostasy, Part II

Monday, May 14, 2007

GOD HAS SPOKEN

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,
but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.

Hebrews 1:1-2a

We hear much today about being in the last days. We hear preachers speak on the Middle East, neutron bombs, and countdowns to a late, great planet. They have large charts with illustrations that are to give us a time table for the end of time and how to understand the hidden meaning of certain biblical texts. It is PowerPoint Prophecy, and it is on every Sunday morning, urging us to hasten the return of the Lord by doing this or that. If they are not talking about the end-times prophecies, then they are urging you to do this and that to hear from God. Words-of-knowledge and individual prophecies are hot commodities in certain congregations. We want to hear something from God, and we will jump through all sorts of hoops to do so. What does Scripture say about this emphasis?

Hearing from God
For the early converts to Christianity from Judaism, the writings that we refer to as the Old Testament were the writings detailing their “adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises” (Romans 9:4). Therefore, they held these words in high regard, as they rightly should have! The prophets were remarkable messengers of God, detailing visions of God and his interactions with humanity. After all, there had been around 400 years of silence between the last prophet of the Old Testament and the coming of John the Baptist. That is a long time to wait. The message of the Old Testament was deeply important to them. These words were handed down to them by their ancestors who had actually heard the prophets.

Moreover, the recipients of this letter were probably second generation Christians, having never seen Christ in person. They are basing their faith on the testimony of other people. We are much like them. We have not seen Christ either. They are even suffering because of Christ. “We should go back to the message of the prophets,” they probably thought, “God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, so let’s forget this Christ. If only God would speak to us in the midst of this, confirming our faith, then we might believe in Jesus.” Does that sound like us? Do we think of the days before our conversion with fondness? How do we deal with this reminiscing? How did they?

This small group of Christians is sharing the painful experiences of suffering in its latest meeting. They may even complain about their aches and pains (much worse than ours). Then they receive a letter in their little house church. What do they read? “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son….” Now that is a difference. Notice the contrast:
  1. The Time
  2. The Recipients
  3. The Messenger

The Time
When has God spoken? Many of us would say, long ago. We feel distant from the time of the Bible. But is that true? Is that the way the inspired Word of God says we should think about the nature of special revelation? The writer to the Hebrews says that God spoke long ago, but in these last days, he has spoken again. What a relief for the reader! The silence has been broken. The wait is over. The words of Isaiah ring in our ears, “Remember not the things former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing, now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:18,19). These are the last days! The recipients of this letter were in the last days. We have been in the last days since then.

The Recipients
To whom has God spoken? Many of us would say that we have never heard from God. We may even view the last person to hear from God to be John, the writer of the book of Revelation. Therefore, this house church receives a letter saying, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets.” The recipients of that letter must have felt those words deeply. “Not only was it long ago, but we didn’t even get to hear it. We only have what was given to us by our fathers.” But they read on, “but in these last days, he has spoken to us.” The writer of this letter does two things to the members of this church with these words:

  1. He corrects their theology.
  2. He provides comfort.

Make note of that! The comfort that the writer provides is based in correct theology. That is how the writer starts a letter to a suffering church. There are no computer games or cookies in this care package, just good theology.

The Messenger
The writer begins to make another distinction between the way God spoke in the past to our fathers and the way he does so in the present to us. At this point, the recipient may have been skeptical, noting that he has not heard of any prophets in their city. How does the writer address this skepticism? Again, he does so with good theology. “[B]ut in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son” (v.2a). Even today, God has spoken to us by his Son. We have a full understanding that the entire written Word of God testifies to the Incarnate Word of God. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

Christ is the foundation of our hope as Christians. He is the anchor that we need so that we do not drift away from God.

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